MATT SHEPHERD and Jon Dawe are set to make their first appearances for Plymouth Albion on Friday night when the National One club host Newton Abbot in their final pre-season match (7.30pm).
The former Launceston pair, who helped Cornwall win the County Championship this year, have missed Albion’s other warm-up games due to holiday and injury.
Scrum-half Shepherd (pictured above) has been in Thailand on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, which he booked last year. It was thought the 25-year-old would miss all Albion’s pre-season matches, but Shepherd contacted the club this week to tell them he would be home in time for Friday’s clash with National Three South West side Newton Abbot.
Winger Jon Dawe has been out with a knee injury, but has recovered to get a run-out before the league season starts on September 5.
There will also be first Albion starts for prop Ollie Dawe, flanker Ben Hawley and back Tom Putt, who would have played for Newton Abbot had Plymouth not needed him.
Director of rugby Graham Dawe will also have another look at Billy Searle at fly-half and Ivybridge’s George de Mendonca on the wing. The pair started Albion’s 45-18 defeat at the hands of Bedford last weekend but came off at half-time.
Graham Dawe is also taking the chance to have a look at players in different positions, with Robin Wedlake starting at centre, Jake Murphy at full-back and Rupert Freestone at tight-head prop.
However, established players like Herbie Stupple, Dan Collier and Cameron Setter are not included in the squad at all, while the likes of Tom Bedford, Nile Dacres, Marc Koteczky and Dan Pullinger are only the bench on Friday.
Ethan Ford and Harrison Cully are injured, while Jack Maunder is still unavailable.
When asked about his team selection for Friday’s match, Dawe said: “We are just trying to get the right balance. There’s a few guys who haven’t started a game yet and we want to give them a chance.”
Dawe says places are still up for grabs to face Richmond in Albion’s opening National One match on September 5. However, he insists it is a team performance he is looking for against Newton Abbot more than anything else.
“First and foremost, it is about playing as a team, not as individuals,” he said. “You don’t achieve anything as individuals.
“If in a team performance your performance is good, then you are more than likely to get the shirt for the following week.
“We just want a good, free-flowing game of rugby and for players to put down some good markers – show some good form going into the Richmond game.”
New Zealand hooker James Penman will captain Albion against the Devon All Whites.
Admission into Brickfields on Friday is £5 for adults, with under-16s admitted free.
ALBION STARTING LINE-UP
15 Jake Murphy
14 Jon Dawe
13 Robin Wedlake
12 Tom Putt
11 George de Mendonca
10 Billy Searle
9 Matt Shepherd
1 Ollie Dawe
2 James Penman (capt)
3 Rupert Freestone
4 Dave Fisher
5 Jim Massey
6 Ben Hawley
7 Jarrard Hayler
8 Chris Courtier
Replacements: Dean Brooker, Ross Crang, Dan Pullinger, Nile Dacres, Paul Hamber, Dan Goldstone, Marc Koteczky, Tom Bedford, Andy Chesters, Elliot Bale, Seti Raumakita, Cameron Thompson